How Was Charitable Giving in 2018?

Several recent reports provide interesting insights into how charitable giving fared in 2018. Below is a summary of results reported by the Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 Charitable Giving Report, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) that was established by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, and Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018.

The Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report “How Fundraising Performed in 2018” indicates that overall giving increased 1.5% from the previous year. Large organizations grew by 2.3%, medium-sized organizations saw slightly lower growth at 2.0% and small nonprofits experienced a decline of 2.3% compared to 2017.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project found giving revenue increased 1.6% in nominal dollars from calendar year 2017. A decline in small and mid-range donors was offset by an increase of 2.6% in gifts of $1,000 or more.

The latest Giving USA estimates found that overall contributions grew 0.7% in nominal dollars to a record $427.71 billion in 2018. When adjusted for inflation, however, there was a slight decline in the purchasing power of those gift dollars, reflected in a 1.7% decline in giving when adjusted for inflation. Charitable bequests totaled a record $39.7 billion.

The findings of the three reports were surprisingly close in their overall results. Charitable giving in 2018 largely held the unprecedented gains in giving seen in 2017 that were driven by continued growth in asset values and gifts that were accelerated from 2018 to 2017 to take maximum advantage of tax incentives before they were reduced. This may partially explain the estimated decline in individual giving in 2018 of 1.1% (3.4% adjusted for inflation). The overall growth of 0.7% was driven by corporate and foundation giving that more than made up for the reduction in individual giving and flat bequest income. ■

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